Two second half goals by Donegal substitute Shane Monaghan ensured victory for the home side in Saturday’s Ulster Quarter Final clash, while Armagh left the field proud of their performance as they led the game for long periods of the second half. A hectic final 10 minutes saw Donegal reign supreme by 6 points, however the score line wasn’t a true reflection of how close the game was throughout the first 50 minutes.
The first half split itself into three 10 minute spells, Donegal the dominant side for the first spell, the sides kicking two points each between the 10th and 20th minute while Armagh controlled the final 10 minutes of the opening half to lead at the interval by the minimum of margins, 1-6 to 0-8.
Donegal danger man Johnny McGroddy got his side up and running with three early points while Carlos O’Reilly and Senan Rooney also found the target for the hosts, with Armagh’s solitary response coming through corner back Rory Kearney, Donegal now ahead 0-5 to 0-1 after 10 minutes of play.
The sides traded points with Caolan Reavey and Dara O’Callaghan (free) scoring for the Orchard while Donegal had Eric Carr and goalkeeper Daithi Roberts (free) both raise white flags to leave Donegal on top 0-7 to 0-3 with 10 minutes of the half remaining. Substitute Paul O’Hare would register Donegal’s final contribution to the half but not before Armagh took control of the affair.
A high ball into the square from Armagh’s roaming wing half back Redmond French found Mark McKeever sneak in behind the Donegal cover and with the ball in McKeever’s possession, the Donegal net minder stood no chance as McKeever narrowed the gap to a single point with a brilliantly taken goal.
O’Callaghan (free), Reavey and Oisin King (free) put their side in front for the first time in the game, with Paul O’Hare’s score leaving Donegal within one of the visitors at the half time break with Armagh in front 1-6 to 0-8, the game still very much up for grabs with 30 minutes of action still to be played.
McGroddy soon tied the game with the first attack of the second half but once again Armagh fired themselves in front. Quick hands in the forward line by Caolan Reavey and Dan McCarthy saw the ball shipped to the on running Rory Kearney who smashed the ball into the top corner of the Donegal net, Armagh striding in front now 2-6 to 0-9.
Armagh remained on top, as Mark McKeever sent the ball between the posts from a free kick, with confidence certainly sky high for the men in orange and white at the start of the second period. Momentum soon switched and Donegal were back on level terms through that man McGroddy (3) once again along with Eric Carr’s second score.
Points from O’Callaghan (free) and McKeever sandwiched a Carlos O’Reilly point before James Walsh provided the crowd with the point of the day with his first touch of the ball. Walsh had only entered the fray when his high fetch in the centre of the field saw him take off, playing a one-two with a team mate before firing the ball straight over the bar, Armagh ahead by two points.
Donegal then raised a green flag of their own, Shane Monaghan pouncing on a defence error to get his side in front. Caolan Reavey equalised straight away for Armagh before McGroddy once again gave his side a slender one point advantage. Donegal rattled off a further two points through McGroddy and Eoin Dowling before Sean Rocks answered to keep his side in touching distance.
Monaghan once again struck the Armagh net to put some daylight between the sides while McGroddy finished with 9 points to his name, his final score also the final point of the game with Donegal seeing out a 2-18 to 2-12 victory. Armagh lost their way somewhat in the final 10 minutes as they were reduced to 12 men while Donegal’s goals delivered the final nail in the coffin. Overall Armagh can be proud of the Ulster campaign, running both Derry and Donegal close while also overcoming Antrim in their round 2 tie.
Team: Shea Magill, Peter McGrane, Ryan Shortt, Rory Kearney (1-1), Lee Rice, Sean McVerry, Redmond French, Adam Garvey, Dara O’Callaghan (0-3), Michael McConville, Dan McCarthy, Oisin King (0-1), Caolan Reavey (0-3), Mark McKeever (1-2), Ciaran Donnelly. Subs: Niall Dummigan for C. Donnelly, James Walsh (0-1) for R. Shortt, Shea Vallely for O. King, Sean Rocks (0-1) for C. Reavey.